Maryland Teen Driver Safety : Do New Car Crash Avoidance Features Help Young Drivers Stay Safe on Our Roadways?

Nationally, the number-one cause of death in teenagers is motor vehicle crashes. According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, 52 people were killed and more than 6,700 people were injured in crashes involving teenage or younger drivers (2011–2015, a 5-year average).

Now, new cars are being manufactured with added safety devices designed to help all drivers avoid motor vehicle crashes. But how effective are these accident avoidance features with young, inexperienced drivers? Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that while some features helped teen drivers in the study drive more safely, others did not. The study found that while crash avoidance warning systems helped teens improve turn signal use and avoid drifting into other lanes, they did not help curb teen-driver tailgating. In fact,

…the study found that teens driving cars with forward-collision alert systems followed the vehicles ahead of them more closely. This suggests that teens in the experiment relied on crash warning systems to tell them when to brake to avoid a rear-end collision. However, an earlier study by the IIHS discovered that when parents monitor their teens’ driving patterns through onboard driver monitoring systems—those teens drive differently than when they are not being monitored. However, that same study also found that in-vehicle monitoring devices are no substitute for actual parental involvement and supervision of teen drivers.

Maryland has a graduating learning system (GLS) of driver licensing in place for our young drivers for a reason. We care about our novice drivers and the lives of their passengers and the motorists sharing the roads with them. The Maryland Highway Safety Office reports that in 2015, 68 percent of fatal crashes involving drivers 16 to 20 years old occurred in the state’s eight most populous jurisdictions (Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties and Baltimore City).

The GLS system arose in the 1970s to target the major factors leading to motor vehicle accident injury and death involving teen drivers: nighttime driving, the presence of other teens in the car, and youth inexperience behind the wheel. Now we must combine those same risk factors with use of drugs and alcohol behind the wheel, along with cell phone usage, including texting while driving (which is illegal for all drivers in Maryland).

It’s a challenging time to be a teenage driver in Maryland, with so many distractions on the road (and often, inside the car itself). The takeaway here is that while some new car safety features may help teen drivers drive more safely and avoid auto accidents, those devices alone are not enough. Graduated licensing systems, state laws aimed at novice drivers, young driver education programs, and parental supervision are all needed to help young drivers learn to be responsible motorists in Maryland.


Alerts boost teen drivers’ turn-signal use
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Aug. 23, 2017
Status Report, Vol. 52, No. 6

Monitoring devices let parents supervise new drivers more closely
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety May 7, 2009
Status Report, Vol. 44, No. 5 | SPECIAL ISSUE: TEENAGE DRIVERS

Young Drivers in Maryland Fast Facts
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Graduated Driver Licensing
The AllState Foundation

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